Tag Archives: dystopian

The YA Way — Chocolate & Oranges

[Full disclosure: “Chocolate & Oranges” is a remnant left behind by an extended metaphor that I realized wasn’t working at all in the context of this post. The subtitle has absolutely no relevance or significance without said metaphor, but I like the simplistically poetic feel of it, so it’s staying just for fun.]

I have always had a weakness for the fantastical. I can’t remember a time when A Wrinkle In Timeand The Phantom Tollbooth weren’t on my bookshelf. When I was younger, I tore through stacks of Goosebumps and Animorphs books in between reading to my dad about talking dragons (Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles) and to myself about armored bears (Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy). One of my first literary heroines was Alanna, the magical lady knight in Tamora Pierce’s The Lioness Quartet — likely contested for my affections only by Pullman’s headstrong Lyra. Even when exploring more classic literature, I was drawn to the theatrical and the strange; I frequently named Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera as one of my favorite books, which retrospectively probably made me sound like a horrible grade-school snob.

It’s really only logical, then, that I grew up to be the reader and writer that I am: one who knows precisely which lines of dialogue in the Harry Potter movies were lifted straight from the books, one who nearly started crying in the middle of a bookstore after spotting the empty space where Catching Fire should have been waiting for her, one whose most recent attempt at a “normal” manuscript involves several ghosts and possibly an archangel or two. Dystopian worlds? Sign me up. Swords & sorcery? Bring it. Magical beasties? Yes, please. To me, nothing is quite as satisfying as diving into a world the likes of which I would almost certainly never encounter in reality.

But recently, I’ve read a slew of contemporary/realistic YA novels that — rather than shoving me headfirst into new worlds — gently took me by the hand and said, “Why don’t you come this way for a while?” And I was enthralled with the lot of them: Sara Zarr’s lovely, poignant Sweethearts. Melina Marchetta’s aching, complex Jellicoe Road. E. Lockhart’s razor-sharp, unapologetically feminist The Disreputable History Of Frankie Landau-Banks. John Green & David Levithan’s tender, witty Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

And I realized that perhaps I am often less inclined to reach for those sorts of books because they are often significantly harder to read. To take just one example — the protagonists of Kristin Cashore’s Fire and Graceling are defiantly independent and frequently lauded as girl-power heroes (and rightfully so), but they don’t make me squirm with recognition the way fledgling feminist Frankie Landau-Banks does. There’s something about the immediacy of contemporary YA that allows for very little emotional distance, which is precisely why books like those I listed are so powerful — and why they’re sometimes so tough.

I’m still more likely to reach for a fantasy or a dystopian than I am a piece of realistic fiction. After all, sometimes you crave the rich, the decadent. Sometimes you need to be electrified by invention and surprise, adventure and danger. Sometimes you want to, to quote Eve Ensler, “go so far away that you stop being afraid of not coming back.”

But, I now understand, sometimes you hunger for something different. Sometimes all you need is the feeling of reading a sentence and thinking, Yes. That’s exactly what it’s like.

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Road Trip Wednesday — Blurb It

This week’s RTW prompt over at YA Highway: “Give a blurb for your favorite book or one of your own!”

Well, as discussed yesterday, I’m near-obsessive about keeping the workings of my Nutty Writer Brain (technical term) to myself, so a synopsis-style blurb is out. I also don’t feel I have anything particularly revelatory to share about my favorite reads; they’ve already been blurbed to death.

What does that leave? Oh, right, an awkward attempt at self-promotion. Hooray! While an honest blurb for my WIP in its current condition would probably involve something along the lines of “It’s cute that she tried,” here’s my living-in-fantasy-land sound bite:

“Looking for something to sink your teeth into after THE HUNGER GAMES? Need to be paired with another great read after MATCHED? Katelyn Gendelev’s INSERT CREATIVE TITLE HERE, a stand-out in the recent pack of YA dystopians, is in turns heart-pounding and thought-provoking. Seamlessly blending beautiful prose with innovative world-building, intriguing characters, and thrilling action, ICTH is a mesmerizing wallop of a debut that will leave you wanting more.”

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Inspiration Station — My Best Friend

Beautiful lady, beautiful view.

Since the night my best friend and I first bonded over terrible dance music and late-night Easy Mac, we’ve been able to talk about absolutely anything. From the pettiest bits of gossip to the most monumental of life concerns, there has never been a moment of hesitant communication between us. So it makes perfect sense that my best friend is thus far the only person to hear a single meaningful word about my new WIP.

To everyone else who asks about my current project, I remain ambiguous and noncommittal — probably insufferably so. “It’s a…dystopian…I think?” I reply with a vague wave of my hand. I’m so cautious about bursting my own mental bubble that I’ve made it a point to stringently avoid discussing even the most innocuous of details, like my MC’s name.

But not only is my best friend, well, my best friend, she’s a writer and a bibliophile and just as enamored with YA as I am. It would have been downright silly not to answer her when she asked about my WIP. (Which, incidentally, is in serious need of an actual title.)

And whaddya know — getting out of my own neurotic head did me a lot of good. My best friend, her literary wondrousness on full display, asked me a series of probing-yet-not-pushy questions that proved to be excellently inspiring. Some helped me clarify ideas in my own head as I articulated them to her; some prompted entirely new thoughts that I’m hoping will really add some depth to my story. I even told her about my favorite — gasp — Big Plot Twist. And it was relieving. It felt like I was working things out, not ruining them by voicing them prematurely.

I still haven’t told anyone my MC’s name, though. I guess some mental bubbles aren’t ready to be popped.

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